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5.1 Value of Public Relations

In order to gain a strategic management role in the organization, the public relations function must show its value to management. Hambrick said that coping with uncertainty is the basis for demonstrating value.Hambrick (1981), pp. 253–276. Technology, workflow, and external environments all contribute to creating uncertainties and, therefore, strategic contingencies. Excellent public relations should help an organization cope with the uncertainties. This can be achieved only with data and useful information. Information theory posits that data are only useful inasmuch as they reduce uncertainty.

When the public relations function provides information and feedback about stakeholder needs and expectations, it performs a critical task for the organization that is unique to its function. Saunders suggested that reducing uncertainty, performing a critical task, and being nonsubstitutable and pervasive all contribute to the influence of any function in an organization.Saunders (1981), pp. 431–442. Influence is increased when public relations can show that it is unique and cannot be substituted by another function within the organization (it is nonsubstitutable) and when it is connected throughout the organization in such a way that it can help manage relationships with all the key stakeholders (it is pervasive). This unique task is much more critical to the organization when it is focused on establishing, maintaining, and repairing relationships with key stakeholders who are needed to help the organization be successful. When the function is simply publicity and media relations, these outcomes may be considered less critical and somewhat disposable when budgets become limited.